Over the years, readers have asked us for a treadmill buying guide, and knowing I have done a lot of research in this area, Salty gave me the job. Except the joke’s on her: this is really an impossible task if you’re trying to be completely open and honest with your readers (read: not beholden to the manufacturers). This is because consumer treadmills, like most home appliances, are actually made by very few companies and then virtually identical models sold under various brand names and models. For instance, ICON makes treadmills that sell under the NordicTrack, Proform, Freemotion, Reebok, Gold’s Gym, Healthrider, and other brand names.
It’s really hard to say buy THIS treadmill when the way the industry works, you might not find the same one again nor does the particular treadmill on one day represent the best value on another day. We want to bring you the most honest and objective information about treadmills. We don’t want to fall for the trap of giving you completely non-actionable buying guides for particular models.
So this is not a post that will recommend specific treadmill models, but what this post will do is give you general shopping tips and advice and our opinions of our own treadmills to help you identify the right treadmill for you.
Treadmill Shopping Tips
Figure out what you want to do on your treadmill and make sure you’re shopping for treadmills that meet your technical requirements. That is to say, if you’re going to run intervals on it, make sure it goes fast enough. If you are going to run Fartleks, make sure you can easily reach to change the speeds. The standard these days is 12.0 MPH max speed, and, for the most part, that is more than enough for most of us.
There are a few other things to consider like cup holders, what data is on the display, etc. Think about how you will use it and go from there.
Treadmills are big! Folding treadmills aren’t what they used to be. When the folding treadmill designs hit the consumer market in the 90’s, they folded completely vertical. Modern treadmills only fold to around 70 degrees. They take up a lot of space, even when folded, and are really hard to move. ICON’s treadmills tend to be larger than the largest standard doorway in a house, so if you don’t pay attention to the assembled dimensions, you’ll be stuck with a treadmill you’ll never be able to move again — even between rooms in your own house.
Make sure you can return it. My mother bought a new Sole treadmill last year from Sears and hated something about it. I don’t even remember what. Sears had some sort of “love it or exchange it” guarantee, so she ended up with a NordicTrack. If you end up hating it, make sure you can take it back.
Don’t forget about Craigslist. People buy treadmills with good intentions and then end up never using them. What happens to these poor neglected machines? They end up on Craigslist at bargain prices. That is how Catnip got hers. Don’t forget, you can also sort eBay by items’ distance and shop there, too.
A few months ago, I bought the Reebok 910 treadmill from Costco.com online. (To illustrate my earlier point, two months later, it is not online anymore.) It is really made by ICON. It’s fine. My decision was driven by making sure I bought a plenty powerful treadmill that went up to 12 MPH so I could run intervals on it for years to come. I find it plenty powerful at interval speeds.
My complaints are that the display speed can be misleading when changing speeds. The heart rate monitor doesn’t work, but I’ve never seen a treadmill where it worked. I can’t adjust its built-in workouts. It would have been really nice to have it do my intervals automatically. The console is really high. It is much higher than my other treadmill and blocks the view of the screen when I watch TV and movies.
Also, this is a huge treadmill. It will not fit through any standard door in any house and is insanely heavy at something like 260 lbs, but I can move it myself and developed a special maneuver to get in onto a custom dolly I made to wheel it into the corner for summer storage.
Overall, it is fine. It will get me through winter and it is plenty powerful for me. It just ain’t no Woodway.
Basil has a Sole F85 living in her basement.
It has survived 3 moves and 6 brutal winters. (It collects dust in the summer.) I agree about needing a service to pick up old and install new. We’ve already planned any treadmill “upgrade” around the next time we move. We’ll ask the movers to bring it up to the main level and then it’s Craigslist time for Newman. (Uh huh. I named my treadmill Newman. And yes, I say it like Jerry Seinfeld would. But deep down, I do love Newman and would be lost without him).
Catnip bought her treadmill for $400 on Craigslist.
I had ripped the belt on my old one (a hand-me-down from friends) and bought this one within two days. I don’t think it had ever been used for running. I say this because in my email exchange with the seller I asked for make and model, max speed, max incline and he claimed that it went up to 20 MPH, so I don’t think he was a runner.
Anyway, it’s lasted 3+ years so far with many easy miles, but also a good amount faster than 10 MPH (it goes up to 12). I have no idea if the speed is accurate but it feels close enough so whatevs. My big TV is hooked up to the computer so I have access to Hulu, Netflix, etc.
Allspice has a Vision T9500.
I don’t remember exactly what we paid for it – something around $1500 to $2000, I think. I bought it from a local dealer because they offer home delivery, set up, and maintenance. In the time we’ve had it, we’ve had to have 2 rollers replaced (different rollers, about a year apart), and since the warranty is quite good, all we’ve ever paid is labor. This thing gets heavy use when conditions outside stink – both my husband and I are runners so we use it daily. My two sons are runners, so when they’re home in the winter, it can be used by 4 people per day.
The display shows time, distance, calories burned, speed, and pace. It has quick incline and quick speed buttons, but I don’t think using those are any quicker than the regular up and down arrows. It also has heart rate sensors in the handles and a read-out for HR on the display. It goes up to 12% incline and 12 MPH (5:00 per mile).
I’ve been extremely happy with it – it’s smooth, relatively quiet, and doesn’t have as much bounce at the higher inclines as some models I’ve run on. When we wear this one out (if we haven’t moved to Arizona yet), I’ll definitely buy another Vision.
Vanilla has a Nordic Track C1750. “We bought it in winter 2013 new for $1500-2,000. The deck has a lot of cushion, and I really like the fan built in. It has a decline of 3% and max incline of 15%. Max speed is 12.0. We’ve had no issues with it other than we have to check the calibration every so,often to make sure it’s level. It comes with the online fitness training, and you can access the web, but we don’t use those. Our basement is wired with a projection screen and surround sound, so movies and TVare available without having to use those features. It also has a pretty sturdy stand for an iPad.
We did buy the 5 yr service plan for $200+. We use the TM a lot, so to us, it was worth buying the service plan — even though I tend not to buy those things.”
Salty has a higher-end Landice, that retails for around $3600. However, she got lucky and bought it at a steep discount from a friend who was moving across the country. It has a very steep incline, but no decline. It goes up to 12 MPH, although she mostly uses it for easy runs. It has customizable programs, but she never uses them. She’s pretty boring when it comes to her treadmill and prefers to do harder runs outside.
One thing I can say about this treadmill that I really like and would recommend, especially to performance-focused runners, is that all the value is in the motor and the durability of the frame and bed. The displays and programs are pretty simple and I don’t use them anyway, so I want to invest in a very solid machine, which I did.
If you have any questions about our treadmill experiences or buying a treadmill, just ask in the comments. And if you own a treadmill tell us what you love and hate about it!